Pour one out for Facebook, which in a few short years may become a shell of its current, blue-bordered self. According to a new study (PDF) from Princeton’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Facebook will see a dramatic drop in usage rates before the end of the decade, losing 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.
The study, which was authored by two Princeton PhD candidates, was modeled after the mathematical adoption rates of infectious diseases, which typically crest before plummeting. Make what you will of the plague metaphor.
A few caveats worth considering, though. Researchers validated their epidemiological model using a social network that had a similar ascension: MySpace. Obviously, Facebook has the luxury of MySpace’s past missteps to guide its future growth.
Then, researchers used Google Trends–which, evidence has shown, is surprisingly accurate for tracking flu outbreaks–to evaluate social network adoption rates.
Of course, the number of times the word “Facebook” appears in Google’s analytics isn’t the cleanest indicator of the social network’s overall health, especially when you consider other factors like mobile, which is at 100 million users and growing.
Pathogens, after all, are pretty good at evolving.